The Weirdest Day Of My Life
Today is the start of the 18th annual Gathering of the Juggalos, the weirdest music festival on the planet. This will be my 8th straight year covering the Gathering so I thought it might be a good time to look back to my first ever Gathering of the Juggalos and one of the first times I was ever paid to write.
Below is a slightly edited version of an article I wrote for Vice in August, 2010: “Dear Vice — I Got Stoned By The Juggalos”.
Have you ever had a day in your life that you could categorically say was the best day of your life? The worst? What’s the funniest thing you have ever seen? I really have no idea, but I can say without hyperbole that the weirdest night of my life was last Friday. It started with me introducing Tom Green to Gallagher and ended with me watching Vanilla Ice perform to a crowd of thousands. And somewhere in the middle, Tila Tequila was assaulted by several hundred clowns. Oh, and I should also mention that Ron Jeremy was there the whole time.
It was the second night of the Gathering of the Juggalos — five miles down a dirt road, over a ferry, and a three hour drive from Nashville in a 30 foot rented RV. I was covering this summer camp for the dammed for the Village Voice and I was waiting to meet Tom Green. My editor Camille and I had tried to arrange an interview with the Canadian funny man but it was impossible to meet up with him because no one gets cell phone reception in Cave-In-Rock, Illinois. So we were waiting for him back stage hoping to get a quote and a photo.
I had just met Gallagher. He was performing the next night and was hanging out by the comedy tent meeting juggalos and waiting for Tom Green to show up so he could see how the insane clowns reacted to his act. Gallagher is known for covering his audience with food, but the juggalos are known for throwing anything they can get their hands on at the performers on stage and he wanted to be prepared.
When Tom Green finally showed up 30 minutes after he was scheduled to start, Ron Jeremy was standing about five feet from me signing very uncomfortable looking girls’ boobs. I introduced myself to Tom. He was expecting us and we arranged an interview for after his set. As he got ready to go on, we talked a bit about his tour and a mutual friend, and he told me he was late because he got stuck at an airport with none other than Tila Tequila.
Before last weekend I had never thought twice about Tila Tequila. I knew that she was famous on MySpace and that she had some sort of reality show but not much more than that. Tom Green on the other hand, was a hero of mine ten years ago and I am still a big fan of his internet TV Show. So if you had told me a few days ago that I would be skipping out on a Tom Green set to see Tila Tequila sing I would have thought you were crazy. But that was before I heard the juggalos talking.
Everyone at the Gathering was talking about Tila Tequila. To the juggalos she is everything they hate. She is pop culture, MTV, and the kids who picked on them in high school all rolled into one. She should not be at the Gathering and they were going to make that known. I had heard conversation after conversation about how juggalos were plotting to take down Ms. Tequila. One guy was collecting his shit in paper towels to throw at her and people were making piss water balloons. I thought it was mostly all talk but I figured if something did happen I should probably be there to document it.
After a surreal moment where I introduced Tom Green to Gallagher I headed over to the second stage with Camille. Tila Tequila was about to go on and we were hoping to catch a few songs and make it back for most of Tom’s set. When we got there Ron Jeremy was already there creeping on some of the “ladies night” performers. Tila Tequila, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen. Camille and I interviewed Sugar Slam the viral video star of the Gathering of the juggalos infomercials. She is the girlfriend of Violent J of the Insane Clown Posse, and she also happened to go to highschool with Tila Tequila. She was hosting the ladies night and was actually a lot more interesting and intelligent than the infomercial would have you believe.
Thirty minutes later there was still no sign of Tila and the juggalos were getting restless and were already throwing bottles and empty beer cans on stage. Camille left to make sure she met up with Tom and I was left to wait for Tila. As I was flirting with an adorable one-legged girl named Amber Amputee, a liquor bottle hit me in the back. It hurt like hell and it was my first realization that something was probably really going to go down if Tila showed up. It was getting late and I had my doubts that she would have the balls to show up but after another ten minutes security came out and started clearing everyone off the stage. Everyone but me and Amber.
When Tila got on stage I realized I was the only photographer there. There was very little media at the Gathering to begin with, and I was the only member to watch Tila Tequila run out on stage flanked by body guards and squirt silly string into the crowd. She told the juggalos how much she loved them as bottles started to fly. I shot photos from the side of the stage but I was only getting shots of her from the back. I asked one of the security guards if I could go out on the actual stage and he told me that I was insane to do it, but he wasn’t going to stop me.
I walked out onto the front of the stage in between Tila and the crowd. She stayed back so she wouldn’t be near the crowd, so I could get good shots of her directly in front of me. As bottles and cans and god knows what else rained down on the stage I was hit over and over again. A few people were clearly aiming for me, but I didn’t get it nearly as bad as Tila and her security did. She was hit in the face with an egg during her first song but she just kept going. Her security tried to knock things out of the air but she was getting pelted. As bad as it got, she would not relent. It was completely insane. Even the M-80s being thrown on stage every 15 seconds didn’t phase her. I never thought she was going to make it through her first song but she just kept going and some of the juggalos at the front of the crowd were clearly as impressed as I was. I almost thought she was going to turn them.
At some point during all of this Camille and Tom Green showed up. Tom ran out on stage with Tila and all the juggalos stopped throwing stuff and started cheering Tom. Things calmed down for a second but as soon as he left the stage shit just got worse. I circled to the other side of the stage to talk to Camille for a second and was on the right side of the stage when a juggalo tried to charge the stage and attack Tila. He was tackled by security immediately, as was the guy who tried to throw a large trash barrel at her. By this time I was getting hit by rocks and the stage was cluttered with garbage and rotten eggs and urine. I saw a Maglite had been thrown at her and some rocks the size of grapefruits. It was getting really dangerous.
I guess she took her top off because she figured it might get the juggalos on her side but as soon as she got naked things just got worse.* She kept telling the juggalos that she loved them and she defiantly sang her ass off while dodging rocks and full beer cans. I have no idea what hit her, she said it was a firework but I didn’t see it. She was covering her face with only her afghan. She never stopped singing though. She was holding this thing to her face as blood dripped down on her giant fake boobs. It was fucked up but she wouldn’t stop. It was the hottest thing I have ever seen.
When she got hit in the face the second time and was bleeding out of both sides of her head the security guards put a stop to it and dragged her off stage, but I think if it were up to her the juggalos would have killed her before she left voluntarily. Even as security pulled her off, covered in blood, she kept talking shit to the audience and never gave up. I will forever have a great respect for Tila Tequila as both a person and as a front woman.** There are very few bands that would put up with shit like that. She would have been at home at a GG Allin concert while supposed “rock bands” have to cancel shows because they are scared of birds shitting on them.
Security took her to her trailer as she was followed by a mob of juggalos ready to kill her. They were shaking her trailer and trying to break in the windows. I don’t know exactly what happened after that, as I followed Tom Green and an actual clown to a secret location where Tom was picked up and taken to safety. It seemed like a bad time to do an interview. Camille and I started walking back to our RV totally speechless by what we had just seen. My back was killing me from all the stuff that I got hit with and I was covered in a combination of beer, Faygo, and urine.
I just wanted to take a shower, but as I passed the “Freak Show Tent” I heard a familiar sound. “Go ninja, go ninja, go!” It was Vanilla Ice playing his hit from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 soundtrack. My mind almost exploded. I walked over, and as he finished the song he introduced one of his fellow Surreal Life cast members… Ron Jeremy. I walked back to my trailer with my head in my hands.
Hours later I couldn’t sleep so I walked around the campsite to talk to people about what we had just witnessed. I talked to a few people, but mostly there were just juggalos walking around like zombies. I saw Ron Jeremy by the comedy tent. I’m pretty sure he was living in the makeshift green room. Then there was Gallagher holding court with juggalos at 8am. He was so high he couldn’t even look at me. It was a weird night.
*After this article came out Tila emailed me to tell me the reason she took off her shirt was because she had been hit with actual shit and it was stuck in her shirt.
**I was wrong. I no longer have respect for her as a person.